Vincentian-born judge Sharon M.J. Commissiong Gianelli has been elected for a 14-year-term to the New York State Supreme Court in Nassau County, Long Island.
Justice Commissiong Gianelli, 52, the niece of Vincentian lawyers Samuel and Bertram Commissiong, was previously elected to serve two terms as a district court judge in Nassau Country’s Third District.
Justice Commissiong Gianelli told Caribbean Life, in an exclusive interview, that it is a “genuine honor” to serve the people of New York “with mighty expectations I intend to meet.
“Reflecting on my own Vincentian heritage – and the changes America has experienced in the last few decades – reminds me to always be gracious and hard-working in my position,” she said. “While few of my background have come before me, my wish is that many will follow.
“I’ve been elected to the New York State Supreme Court, and it feels truly great,” she added, noting that the Supreme Court is the highest trial level court in New York. The court handles civil and criminal cases that exceed the authority of the state’s lower courts.
Commissiong Gianelli said the law is about equal treatment for all, stating that there should be “no room for prejudice, nor time for silliness and unnecessary delay.
“It’s important to always remember that the law affects every day human beings,” she said. “There is no weakness in hearing out all sides before coming to a firm decision.”
Commissiong Gianelli said she is “a proud Vincentian,” pointing out that her values, work ethic and core principles were “forged and formed” in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and “further developed and honed here in America.”
She said she was “raised by a village of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins, teachers, friends and others of good will”, and that she was “honored and humbled to have been bestowed this blessing.”
She said she will always be mindful that her newly-elevated position comes with “great responsibility to observe the law and [to] ensure that justice is done.”
As a former president of the Nassau County District Court Judge Association, as well as an erstwhile social worker in the City of New York, Justice Commissiong Gianelli said her signature work began when she was chosen to preside over the Adolescent Diversion Part (ADP) – one of only nine statewide pilot projects to handle adolescent misdemeanor and felony cases.
An alumnus of Brooklyn Law School and Syracuse University’s School of Social Work in upstate New York, Commissiong Gianelli previously served as an assistant district attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and as counsel to the New York State Grievance Committee.
Prior to her appointment to the District Court by Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, Commissiong Gianelli served as majority counsel to the Nassau County Legislature from 2000-2005.
She currently serves on the New York State Judiciary Advisory Council, and is a member of the New York State Bar Association; Nassau County Bar Association; Nassau County Women’s Bar Association; and, “quite proudly,” the Criminal Courts Bar Association of Nassau County.
Justice Commissiong Gianelli is among just three Vincentian judges reportedly sitting on the bench in the New York Tri-State area.
Justice Sylvia Ash – whose father, the late Rudolph “Fire” Ash, was from Kingstown Hill, Kingstown, the Vincentian capital – serves on the bench at Kings County State Supreme Court in Brooklyn in the Civil Division.
Judge Emille Cox, who hails from Union Island in the St. Vincent Grenadines, is a supervising judge of compensation, Camden Vicinage, south New Jersey.
He has been a supervising judge in the Division of Workers’ Compensation, Department of Labor and Workforce Development, in New Jersey for 3 ½ years and a judge since 2003.